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Saudi Dates Tested by Astronomical Calculations

ISNA’s new position copies Saudi Umm al-Qura Taqweem rule of: the Conjunction date + moonset AFTER the sunset in Makka.” (ISNA’s earlier position: the conjunction BEFORE 12:00 Noon GMT was a variation of Saudi rule). Both the revised and previous positions disregard the moon’s sighting in Saudi Arabia or the USA on calculated dates.

Of course, Saudi calendar makers readily admit and ISNA FCN/ECFR etc. agree that a Hilal is NOT SEEN in Makka on the date calculated by this criterion. It is also well known that the Saudi witnesses often claim seeing a Hilal before the conjunction in Makka.

Test any Saudi date, and it is enough to prove that the Saudi first dates are "astronomically" incorrect also (for Saudi Arabia or any country in the world). Let us test Eid al-Fitr 2007 date to see if ISNA adopted Saudi rule of calculation is valid for any Islamic calendar. The data shows:

  1. The New Moon (Conjunction) date is Oct. 11, 2007

  2. The moon sets ONE minute BEFORE the Sunset in Makka on Oct. 11

Therefore, Eid al-Fitr fixed date (for S. Arabia, ISNA, ECFR, etc.) is Oct. 13.

Now let us consider the following:

  1. If the moonset in Makka was only one minute later at 6:00 pm with the sunset at 6:00 pm (instead of 5:59 pm) on Oct. 11, 2007 then Oct. 12 would be the Eid date by Umm al-Qura/ISNA rule. A difference of only one minute makes a difference of a whole date.

  2. In some parts of S. Arabia (not Makka) the moonset might be with the sunset on Oct. 11. Saudi rule should allow Eid al-Fitr at least there on Oct. 12, instead of October 13 for the rest of the country.

  3. What about the regions east of Makka (from Taif to New Zealand) where the moonset is AFTER the sunset on Oct. 11? Good examples are Jakarta (Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Colombo (Sri Lanka). At all those places the moon sets AFTER the sunset. Should they have Eid on Oct. 12 (a day before Saudi Arabia by following the Saudi calendar rule) or wait till Oct. 13 as ISNAFC/ECFR advised the Muslims in Europe and America?

  4. In the countries located west of Makka where the moon sets BEFORE the sunset on Oct. 11  (Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, etc) of course, following the Saudi rule, Eid should be on Oct. 13. But what about western Africa, as well as North and South America where the moon sets AFTER the sunset on Oct. 11? Why should these countries wait till Oct. 13 for Eid? The criterion that ISNA/ECFR endorse for fixing Islamic dates all over the world is fully met in those countries.

Is this the Way to Begin an Islamic Month?

The last paragraph of Dr. Zulfiqar Shah’s paper “The Unity of Horizons…” reads:

  • “The new month will start for Mecca and all the localities on the West of Mecca…”

If this is how the Muslims start the month then Taif, which is located east of Mecca (and all countries east to New Zealand) should start the month on next solar date, and not on the same day as Mecca. This is the real quandary.